Our Happy Place: Is It Thanksgiving?

'Wisdom' and Other Words To Live By From a Wet-Behind-The Ears Oracle

Has anyone asked you lately if you were happy?  Really happy?  How did you respond?

When you talk—or think—about being happy, is it in present or future tense?  Maybe when your dream lover shows up?  Or when you get that big career break?  Or when your house sells . . .  or you leave for vacation or your complexion clears up . . .

Does happiness always feel like something that hasn’t happened yet?  A place you haven’t been yet?  A person you haven’t met yet?

During the past week or so, the week that we specifically set aside each for ‘thanksgiving,’ I wondered to The Shower Team about the nature of true happiness–that ultimate reason for giving thanks–and more specifically, the timing of it . . .   why does it so often feel like something somewhere up ahead rather than something right in front of me?  Is it possible to reach out and touch it now—and to hang on?

The reason that happiness so often feels remote or removed from you, the reason that it often feels like something‘out there rather than something in your here and now is because of the way you tend to think about it and to describe it to yourself and others.

You usually describe happiness as a noun when in fact it is a verb.  You think of happiness as a person, place, or thing . . . as yet unattained, and you hold yourself back from the fullest possible joy available to you, believing that your happiness must be earned or achieved or perhaps, granted as a favor by some benevolent giver of random happy-nesses.

You think of happiness not as the constantly flowing stream of well being that it is, the ever-present joyful current of life that you are living or even as the ever-expanding, joyful vortex of your evolving desires . . .  but rather as this stop or that stop along the way, as this piece of treasure or that interesting character that you might find . . ..  It is as if you were deciding to take an exhilarating ride down a scenic river . . . but then concluding that the real joy is getting to the end and pulling your boat out of the water rather than savoring the wild time that you’re having  . . .   or purchasing a ticket to an amusement park full of stimulating experiences and deciding that happiness is being done with it all and calling it a night and heading home rather than throwing your hands up in the air and screaming at the top of your lungs as you experience each available ecstatic moment with each available attraction.

The point is that you get your ideas about happiness rather twisted up to the point where you really believe that your joy comes when what you want is in your hands rather than in the journey toward it.  You make happiness—not unlike love—conditional and contingent.  You essentially say, “Happy means having this” . . .  or “Happy means having that” . . . .   and then because deep down you know that’s not it . . .  you are constantly coming up with something else to have that you think happiness will result from–and feeling unhappy while you wait for it.

It is not the wanting of more that is screwy here.  Rather, it is your mistaking the having of wherever ‘it’ is for happiness when heppiness is so not the ‘thing’ you want . . .  but rather the joy that is always calling to you and always taking you in the direction of whatever you want, when you let it.  Happiness is the choice to see what is perfect right where you are.  Happiness is the choice to appreciate what’s in front of you . . .  AND what is ahead of you . . . AND what’s behind you . . .   Happiness is the decision to ‘be’ happy no matter where you are or what you want that you don’t have yet  . . .  simply because it feels so much better to feel good than it does to feel sad or lost of afraid or angry. 

Happiness is you choosing to see that well being is the natural state of things.  Happiness is you recognizing that nothing you want that hasn’t come yet is an excuse for you to feel bad.  Happiness is you coming to the conclusion that you get to decide how you feel in any and every moment of your experience . . .  and that no as yet unfulfilled desire . . .  no as yet unobtained goal . . . no as yet unmet lover . . . no as yet unexperienced level of satisfaction or wellness or abundance . . .  is a good enough reason for you to stand there in you’re here and now, choosing to feel unhappy.

Happy is the act of choosing to see who You really are.  Happy is the act of deciding that you will not use any of the excuses available to you to hold yourself back from the stream of well being that is always flowing all around you.

Happy is the act of choosing to see that there is no destination still in front of you that is sufficient cause for you to be miserable where you are .  . .   it is the process of allowing yourself to feel good along the way . . . to truly, genuinely, savor the ride you’re having . . .  to understand that where you’re going or what you’re hoping for or who you’re waiting for is never really the point  . . . but rather it is the exhilaration, the stimulation, the satisfaction, the sheer pleasure of being on your way that is your happiness.

And that, dear ones, is never more than a choice away.  Never remote or unavailable.  Never off limits to you.  You can decide that happiness is in the hands of some prince who hasn’t come yet or some ship that hasn’t come in yet or that it is some trophy you haven’t worked hard enough to earn yet.  But why?  Why decide to postpone what is so there for you now?  Why wait to enjoy the ride?  Why keep putting off the truly limitless joys that are right in front of you? 

Your happy place is not a place.  It’s a simple choice to be made over and over . . .   anytime, anywhere, with anyone, one happier or more pleasing thought at a time . . .   When you really let yourself realize and believe that, what a truly happy traveler you will be.

Maybe there’s an analogy worth noting here, on the heels of a holiday we call “Thanksgiving,” as though thanks giving was in fact a noun, some point on the calendar, an occasion rather than a choice or an act. 

Old habits often die hard, and I know my habit is to believe that things have to be different if I’m going to feel better.  But what if happiness–and thanksgiving–really have nothing to do with anything being different?  What if it really is just a choice I can make.  How powerful a magician would that make me—able to turn any moment into at least a slightly happier one–able to transform any moment into thanksgiving?

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About Dan

Published novelist, poety, essayist, photographer and college educator. Visit me at www.firstadream.com.

Posted on November 29, 2009, in Self Development. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Really appreciated the Happy comments – and very helpful reminders. While we may have habits of thought that take us down the dark alley, we are just a decision away from choosing joy.

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